The Catholic University of America is committed to ensuring that all qualified individuals with disabilities have the opportunity to participate in educational programs and services on an equal basis. The Universitysupports the integration of all qualified individuals into the programs of the University and is committed to full compliance with all laws regarding equal opportunity for all students with a disability. At the University, students, Disability Support Services (DSS), faculty, academic deans and department chairs, and the Equal Opportunity Officer all play a joint role in promoting equal access to campus facilities and programs.
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, as amended, and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, all qualified students with a disability (as defined under the law) are eligible for reasonable accommodations or modifications in the academic environment that enable the qualified individual to enjoy equal access to the University's programs, services or activities. Programs and activities must be provided in the most integrated setting appropriate. The University is not required to provide any aid or service that would result in a fundamental alteration to the nature of the program.
DSS provides disability consultation, advocacy and the coordination of support services and accommodations for all qualified students with disabilities. Services and accommodations are determined individually based on disability documentation. In order to receive services, students must disclose their disability to DSS and be found eligible for an accommodation by DSS.
The University is committed to promoting the full participation of all qualified students with disabilities in all aspects of campus life. Students with disabilities are required to meet the same academic standards as other students at the University. It is only through a student's voluntary disclosure of their disability and request for accommodations that the University can support disability needs. Students that do not voluntarily disclose their disability and request accommodations are not eligible for services.
Students who have a disability and wish to make a request for disability-related accommodations or services must do so through DSS. Each student must submit their documentation along with an intake form to DSS in order to apply for services. Students are encouraged to register with DSS prior to arrival on campus for the upcoming semester. Once eligibility is determined, appropriate accommodations based on the approved documentation are put in place. Accommodations are determined on a case-by-case basis.
DSS works with various campus offices to promote compliance with this policy and with federal laws and regulations. To this end, DSS works closely with the Equal Opportunity Officer, the Office of General Counsel, the Dean of Students Office, Facilities Services and the various Academic Deans and Department Chairs.
A. An Individual with a Disability refers to an individual with a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, who has a record of such impairment, or who is regarded as having such an impairment.
An individual meets the requirement of being “regarded as having such an impairment” if the individual establishes that he or she has been subjected to an action prohibited by Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act because of an actual or perceived physical or mental impairment, whether or not the impairment limits or is perceived to limit a major life activity. However, “being regarded as” does not apply to qualify someone for protection under the law when the impairment is transitory or minor, i.e. a duration of six months or less and the University is not required to provide an accommodation for someone who is only “regarded as being disabled” and does not actually have a disability.
B. Major Life Activities include, but are not limited to, caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating and working. A major life activity also includes the operation of a major bodily function, including but not limited to, functions of the immune system, normal cell growth, digestive, bowel, bladder, neurological, brain, respiratory, circulatory, endocrine, and reproductive functions.
C. A Qualified Student with a Disability is one who meets the academic and technical standards requisite to admission or participation in the educational program or activity.
D. Accommodation refers to an adjustment or modification in the academic environment that enables an individual to enjoy equal access to the University's programs, services or activities. An example of an accommodation would be one that allows a student to complete the same assignment or test as other students, but with a change in the timing, formatting, setting, scheduling, response and/or presentation. The accommodation does not alter in any significant way what the test or assignment measures.
E. Reasonable Accommodation in the student setting is a modification or adjustment to a course, program, or activity or facility that allows the person with a disability to participate as fully as possible in the programs and activities offered by the University. Accommodation may be necessary where the student has, or has a record of having, a disability.
F. Fundamental Alteration. While the University makes every effort to provide reasonable accommodations, the University is not required to provide any aid or service or make any modification that would result in a fundamental alteration in the nature of the program. For example, where a course requirement is essential to the program of instruction taken by the student, the University is not required to waive the requirement. In evaluating whether the requested program modifications would require substantial program alteration or would fundamentally alter academic standards or programs, the program administrator should consider the underlying academic reasons for the program components, the academic standards institutionalized in the program, how the challenged components are consistent with the program standards, and how the requested accommodations would be inconsistent with the academic goals and standards of the program.
G. Essential Element. In the academic context, an accommodation is not reasonable if it means making a substantial change in an essential element of a course or a given student's curriculum. It is the institution's responsibility to demonstrate both that the change requested is substantial and that the element targeted for change is essential to the conduct of the course or curriculum. Whether or not the change requested is substantial/essential may be based upon pedagogical precepts, the class syllabus, and/or the judgment of administrators and service providers with knowledge of the class and the student’s disability. Sometimes the question hinges not on the course of study but the manner in which a specific course is conducted.
H. Substantially Limits means a material restriction of the duration, manner or condition under which an individual can perform a major life activity when compared to the average person's ability to perform that same major life activity.
The determination of whether impairment substantially limits a major life activity shall be made without regard to effects of mitigating measures such as medication, medical supplies, hearing aids, use of assistive technology, reasonable accommodations or auxiliary aides or services or learned behavioral or adaptive neurological modifications. For example, a person with diabetes will still qualify as an individual with a disability, even though the individualmay have minimal impairment while on insulin. The one exception is eyeglasses or contact lenses. The effects of corrective lenses on one's vision shall be considered in determining whether a major life activity is substantially limited. Thus, a person with good vision with corrective lens will not be considered disabled.
I. Direct Threat to Health or Safety means a significant risk to health or safety that cannot be eliminated by modification of policies, practices, or procedures, or by the provision of auxiliary aids or services. In determining whether an individual poses a direct threat to health or safety, the University must make an individualized assessment, based on reasonable judgment that relies on current medical knowledge or the best available objective evidence, to ascertain:
· the nature, duration, and severity of the risk;
· the probability that the potential injury actually will occur; and
· whether reasonable modification of policies, practices, or procedures will mitigate the risk.
J. Undue Burden. The University need not make modifications or provide auxiliary aids or services if it constitutes an undue burden. In determining whether or not an undue burden exists, the factors to be considered are the nature and cost of the action needed in the context of the overall financial resources of the University.
K. Physical or Mental Impairment means any physiological disorder or condition, cosmetic disfigurement, or anatomical loss affecting one or more body systems, such as neurological, musculoskeletal, special sense organs, respiratory (including speech organs), cardiovascular, reproductive, digestive, genitourinary, immune, circulatory, hemic, lymphatic, skin and endocrine. This includes any mental or psychological disorder, such as intellectual disability, organic brain syndrome, emotional or mental illness, and specific learning disabilities. An impairment that is episodic or in remission is a disability if it would substantially limit a major life activity when active.
Temporary impairments that take significantly longer (more than 6 months) to heal, long-term impairments, or potentially long-term impairments of indefinite duration may be disabilities if they are severe.
Specific learning disability is a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, which may manifest itself in an imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell or do mathematical calculations, including conditions such as perceptual disabilities, brain injury, minimum brain dysfunction, dyslexia, and developmental aphasia. Specific learning disability does not include learning problems that are primarily the result of visual, hearing, or motor disabilities, of mental retardation, of emotional disturbance, or of environmental, cultural or economic disadvantage (34 CFR 300.8).
L. Auxiliary Aids and Services include: 1) Qualified interpreters on-site or through video remote interpreting (VRI) services; notetakers; real-time computer-aided transcription services; written materials; exchange of written notes; telephone handset amplifiers; assistive listening devices; assistive listening systems; telephones compatible with hearing aids; closed caption decoders; open and closed captioning, including real-time captioning; voice, text, and video-based telecommunications products and systems, including text telephones (TTYs), videophones, and captioned telephones, or equally effective telecommunications devices; videotext displays; accessible electronic and information technology; or other effective methods of making aurally delivered information available to individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing;
(2) Qualified readers; taped texts; audio recordings; Brailled materials and displays; screen reader software; magnification software; optical readers; secondary auditory programs (SAP); large print materials; accessible electronic and information technology; or other effective methods of making visually delivered materials available to individuals who are blind or have low vision;
(3) Acquisition or modification of equipment or devices; and
(4) Other similar services and actions.
The University recognizes that student disability records contain confidential information and are to be treated as such pursuant to the University’s Information Security and Assurance Policy. Documentation of a student's disability is maintained in a confidential file in DSS and is considered part of the student's education record. Information related to a disability may be disclosed only as permitted by the University's Student Records Policy and federal law. A student’s right to privacy must still be balanced against the University's need to know the information in order to provide requested and recommended services and accommodations.Therefore, in the interest of serving the needs of the student, the provision of services may involve DSS staff disclosing disability information provided by the student to appropriate University personnel participating in the accommodation process. Information may be disclosed to appropriate parties in a health or safety emergency if knowledge of the information is necessary to protect the health or safety of the student or other individuals.This is limited to a specific situation that presents imminent danger to a student, other students, or other members of the school or community. Any release must be narrowly tailored considering the immediacy, magnitude, and specificity of information concerning the emergency. The amount of information that may be released is determined on a case-by-case basis.
IV. Documentation Requirements
Students who are requesting services from DSS are required to submit documentation. Accommodation decisions cannot be made until, at a minimum, some written documentation is provided to DSS and an interview has been conducted by DSS staff.
The type of documentation necessary will vary according to each student and their disability. DSSacknowledges that once a person is diagnosed as having a disability the disability is normally viewed as life-long. While the disability will continue, the severity of the condition and/or how it is impacted in different settings may change over time. Accordingly, documentation may need to be updated.
In evaluating whether an accommodation is reasonable and appropriate DSS will consider certain criteria including, but not limited to, the following:
1. Disability (diagnosis)
2. DSS Registration Information (PDD Questionnaire, Special Education Teacher or Tutor form, parent form)
3. Academic history
4. Personal self-reported statement
5. Previous accommodations received
6. Accommodations being requested
7. Unique characteristics of each course or program
8. Observations and interactions with DSS during interviews
9. Any other documentation provided
V. Determining Eligibility
Accommodations are determined on a case-by-case basis, taking into account the needs of the student, the course standards and essential requirements, and the educational environment. At the University, the determination of an appropriate and reasonable accommodation is based on written documentation and thorough interaction with the student. Specifically, accommodations are determined by DSS in consultation with the student and with input from the faculty and staff, as needed.
In reviewing the specific accommodation requested by the student or recommended by the physician/evaluator, DSS may find that while a recommendation is clinically supported, it is not the most appropriate accommodation given the requirements of a particular student's academic program.
In addition, DSS may also propose clinically supported accommodations that would be appropriate and useful for the student, but which neither the student nor the evaluator have requested.
DSS reserves the right to determine eligibility for services based on the quality of the submitted documentation. If the student's participation in programs or services imposes a direct threat to the safety of students or others, then the University may deny participation in the program.
VI. Registering for Services
Students with disabilities who wish to receive accommodations or services must officially register with DSS. To register, the student must submit their documentation and a completed intake form to DSS. Once those pieces of information are received, DSS staff will contact the student to schedule an intake appointment to officially register for services. During the intake appointment all accommodations, services and procedures will be discussed. At this meeting, the student will be informed that accommodations must be requested every semester in order to receive services and be actively registered that semester.
VII. Accommodation Requests
Each semester, the student submits the required Accommodation Request form with a copy of their schedule in order to formally request services and accommodations. Requests for services or accommodation should be made as early as possible to allow time to review requests and documentation and make proper arrangements. Accommodation arrangements may be compromised or denied if a request is not made in a timely manner. A disclosure of disability or request for an accommodation made to a faculty or staff member, other than the staff of DSS, will not be treated as a request for an accommodation.
VIII. Denial of Accommodations
The University reserves the right to deny services or accommodations if sufficient supporting documentation and information is not provided by a student to support the need for an accommodation.
If the documentation provided by a student does not support the existence of a disability or the need for an accommodation, the student will be so advised. Students will be given the opportunity to supplement the initial documentation with further information. In such instances written evaluations from physicians or other qualified specialists are particularly helpful in evaluating accommodation requests.
The University is not required to provide any aid or service or make any modification that would result in a fundamental alteration in the nature of the program. For example, where a course requirement is essential to the program of instruction taken by the student, the University is not required to waive the requirement. In evaluating whether the requested program modifications would require substantial program alteration or would fundamentally alter academic standards or programs, the program administrator should consider the underlying academic reasons for the program components, the academic standards institutionalized in the program, how the challenged components are consistent with the program standards, and how the requested accommodations would be inconsistent with the academic goals and standards of the program.
Additionally, an accommodation that makes a substantial change in an essential element of a course or a given student's curriculum is not reasonable and therefore not required. It is the institution's responsibility to demonstrate both that the change requested is substantial and that the element targeted for change is essential to the conduct of the course or curriculum. Whether or not the change requested is substantial/essential may be based upon pedagogical precepts, the class syllabus, and/or the judgment of administrators and service providers with knowledge of the class and the student’s disability. Sometimes the question hinges not on the course of study but the manner in which a specific course is conducted.
The University also does not need to make modifications or provide auxiliary aids or services if it constitutes an undue burden on the University’s overall institutional budget. In determining whether or not an undue burden exists, the factors to be considered are the nature and cost of the action needed in the context of the overall financial resources of the University.
Lastly, the University does not need to make an accommodation that poses a direct threat to the health or safety of the student or others.
IX. Student Appeal
Students have the right to file a grievance on discrimination based upon disability. A student who believes he/she has been denied equal access in the form of appropriate accommodations, modifications, auxiliary aids, or effective communication, or who believes he/she has suffered discriminatory harassment should refer to the Guidelines for Filing a Grievance on Discrimination Based Upon Disability for the methods for information on how to proceed.
Issued -- 1991
Revised -- November 8, 2013
Director of Disability Support Services, tel. (202) 319-5211
Issued -- 1991
Revised -- November 8, 2013
Director of Disability Support Services, tel. (202) 319-5211